Okay, it’s the last predictions of the year! Get ’em right here!
Everything I said last week is mostly still applicable, so I will keep this mainly to anything that’s changed.
I’m sticking with my predicted Top Four, since there weren’t any major upsets in the conference title games. There was one major upset on the day, though: Texas defeating Baylor, which means the Big 12’s Sugar Bowl slot will go to Oklahoma State instead of the Bears. Bit of a bum rap considering the circumstances (essentially, Baylor ran out of quarterbacks), but them’s the breaks.
I wound up doing a major reshuffling of the SEC’s bowl games, but I saw a fair bit of news from the past 24 hours that really suggested Tennessee to the Outback Bowl and Georgia to the Taxslayer Bowl, which caused a cascade through the other games. This has the effect of avoiding a Virginia Tech-Tennessee matchup in the Belk Bowl at least, since they will meet again September. However, this will likely also send LSU to the Texas Bowl, which seems to be agreeable to all parties except the Texas Bowl and Texas Tech, but again, the SEC gets to decide which bowls its teams go to after the Citrus.
Speaking of the Citrus, they could really shake things up if they decide they don’t want the punchless edition of Florida we’re currently getting, but I don’t think that’s likely.
There were some other slight changes due to the Big 12 reshuffling and any news I could glean from elsewhere, but I think these predictions are about as good as you’re going to get for the Power 5. The main remaining sticking point is where the the extra Pac-12 teams will wind up (and, indeed, which Pac-12 teams will be the extras). There’s one major problem, which I’ll get to below.
Group of Five
The other upset of the day was Georgia State defeating Georgia Southern, putting the Panthers in their first ever bowl game, the Cure Bowl.
So, About Those 5-7 Teams…
The 5-7 teams I wound up using are Nebraska, Minnesota, and San Jose State. The former two, I simply slotted into the Big Ten’s remaining bowl slots. Easy. San Jose State, not so much.
I wound up with a bunch of extra Pac-12 teams, a couple extra MAC teams, and an extra Mountain West team in the Spartans. The main issue that of the payouts. The director of the Arizona Bowl was quoted in saying that his first year bowl can’t afford the payout necessary to get a Pac-12 team. This means I couldn’t slot a Pac-12 team there. However, the extra MAC schools I had slotted into the backup bids that conference negotiated ahead of time. The result, then, is that I currently have Colorado State playing San Jose State. At least they didn’t play in the regular season. One solution is that the Arizona Bowl could trade a bowl slot with, say, a MAC-affiliated bowl, but the only MAC bowl out west that would make sense the Poinsettia Bowl, which already has a Mountain West school. This sort of thing has happened before, but a) it’s very, very tough for me to predict such swaps if no one is explicitly talking about them in the news and b) the Arizona Bowl is new and may not have the “pull” necessary to get someone to swap with them. So, even though it’s probably wrong, I’m going with that for now.